When Stewart Butterfield's first game company wasn't going all that well, he and his team decided to focus on one of the game's features that enabled players to share images. Before long, Flickr had taken over the web, and in some ways, launched a new era of social media. So Stewart went back to his original passion. And his next game flopped. So he focused on an internal communication tool his team had built to better work on the game. That became a new product called Slack. And Slack could be huge. In Wired, Mat Honan does an excellent job tracing the career of Stewart Butterfield, and in doing so, paints a very accurate portrait of the evolution of the start-up world: The most fascinating profile you'll ever read about a guy and his boring startup.
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Using Motorola, Nokia, and Nintendo as examples, Tero Kuittinen explains how dominant tech companies are lulled into "a comfy trip to the grave" by huge but ultimately short-lived successes before new paradigms take over.
For years, Nintendo has believed it could reject smartphone and tablet apps, yet still flourish. The reason for this delusion is familiar -- it's the toxic Last Blockbuster Syndrome that doomed the consumer electronics divisions of Motorola in 2004 and Nokia in 2007. Often at the start of a massive trend shift in consumer electronics, dominant dinosaurs get one massive hit built on a nearly obsolete paradigm, and that allows them to be lulled into a comfy trip to the grave.
The best example from the past few years is when Motorola, Nokia, and RIM were flying high with their phone products when the iPhone came along and changed the game.
A harrowing piece by novelist Helen DeWitt about being stalked by her neighbor.
E turned up next morning at six because his fire had gone out. I said I had to go for my walk. He went home. When I got back I found a pane of glass on the dresser; there was a gap in its normal home in the side door. E: 'I was cold and you weren't there. But yeah, yeah, I know that was wrong. Don't worry, I'll fix it.'
This was clearly something I could report to the police. It seemed harsh to lock someone up for social cluelessness, but I was spooked. I packed my bags and left for a motel within the hour. Then I found a room on Craigslist that was available until the end of January. I was desperate to finish a book.
E's landlord: 'You're a very attractive woman. He can't help himself. I'm sorry you can't live on your property.'
It's a big leap from 'you know I love her' to baseball bat by the bed. I read the Vermont law on trespass on 28 December 2012 and it appeared to confirm my sense of the social norm. Entering a property when forbidden to do so, or remaining on a property after being asked to leave, carries a maximum sentence of three months and/or a $500 fine. It's not a heavy sentence, but the law is beautifully genderblind: I have the same right to occupy my property undisturbed as my uncle the ex-marine. I believed I could exercise this right and attempted to do so. This was the first step on the slippery slope to the baseball bat.
Yobi3D is a search engine for finding 3D objects. Here's a search for "horses":
This is pretty neat...all the objects are zoomable and rotatable in the browser. (via prosthetic knowledge)
From the gaming laboratory at CERN (??!), Particle Clicker is like Cookie Clicker but about particle physics. As in, you actually learn about particle physics while you're playing.
I am addicted to these damn things. Send help. (via waxy)
From James Marsh, the director of the excellent Man on Wire, a biopic of physicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane. Here's the first trailer:
The film is based on a book by Jane Hawking, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.
In this compelling memoir, his first wife, Jane Hawking, relates the inside story of their extraordinary marriage. As Stephen's academic renown soared, his body was collapsing under the assaults of motor neurone disease. Jane's candid account of trying to balance his 24-hour care with the needs of their growing family reveals the inner-strength of the author, while the self-evident character and achievements of her husband make for an incredible tale presented with unflinching honesty.
As promising as this looks, the Kanye in me needs to remind you that Errol Morris' A Brief History of Time is the best film about Stephen Hawking of all time. OF ALL TIME.
Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant played against each other in only eight NBA games, but none of the games took place with both players in their prime. Their first few meetings, dominated by Jordan, happened during Kobe's first and second NBA seasons, when he was an impulsive and unpolished teen. Their final meetings, dominated by Bryant, found an out-of-retirement Jordan on the hapless Washington Wizards, pushing 40 years old.
But more than any other two marquee players in NBA, Jordan and Kobe have played with very similar styles. Like almost identically similar, as this video clearly shows:
The first 15 seconds of the video is a fantastic piece of editing, stitching together similar moves made by each player into seamless single plays. And dang...even the tongue wagging thing is the same. How many hours of Jordan highlight reels did Kobe watch growing up? And practicing moves in the gym?
As an aside, and I can't believe I'm saying such a ridiculous thing in public, but I can do a pretty good MJ turnaround fadeaway. I mean, for a 6-foot-tall 40-year-old white guy who doesn't get a lot of exercise and has never had much of a vertical leap. I learned it from watching Jordan highlights on SportsCenter and practicing it for hundreds of hours in my driveway against my taller next-door neighbor. I played basketball twice in the past month for the first time in years. Any skills I may have once had are almost completely gone...so many airballs and I couldn't even make a free throw for crying out loud. Except for that turnaround. That muscle memory is still intact; the shots were falling and the whole thing felt really smooth and natural. I think I'll still be shooting that shot effectively into my 70s. (via devour)
Today I learned that iconic designer Milton Glaser co-wrote a column for New York magazine (which he co-founded) about where to find cheap-but-good food in NYC. It was called The Underground Gourmet. Here's a typical column from the October 27, 1975 issue, reviewing a ramen joint in Midtown called Sapporo that is miraculously still around:
Glaser and his co-authior Jerome Snyder eventually packaged the column into a series of books, some of which you can find on Amazon...I bought a copy this morning.
I found out about Glaser's food enthusiasm from this interview in Eye magazine about The Underground Gourmet and his long collaboration with restaurateur Joe Baum of the Rainbow Room and Windows on the World.
We just walked the streets ... When friends of ours knew we were doing it we got recommendations.
There were parts of the city where we knew we could find good places ... particularly in the ethnic parts. We knew if we went to Chinatown we would find something if we looked long enough, or Korea Town, or sections of Little Italy.
More then than now, the city was more locally ethnic before the millionaires came in and bought up every inch of space. So you could find local ethnic places all over the city. And people were dying to discover that. And it was terrific to be able to find a place where you could have lunch for four dollars.
In 2010, Josh Perilo wrote an appreciation of The Underground Gourmet in which he noted only six of the restaurants reviewed in the 1967 edition had survived:
Being obsessed with the food and history of New York (particularly Manhattan), this was like finding a culinary time capsule. I immediately dove in. What I found was shocking, both in the similarities between then and now, and in the differences.
The most obvious change was the immense amount of restaurants that no longer existed. These were not landmarked establishments, by and large. Most of them were hole-in-the wall luncheonettes, inexpensive Chinese restaurants and greasy spoons. But the sheer number of losses was stunning. Of the 101 restaurants profiled, only six survive today: Katz's Delicatessen, Manganaro's, Yonah Schimmel's Knishes Bakery, The Puglia and La Taza de Oro. About half of the establishments were housed in buildings that no longer exist, especially in the Midtown area. The proliferation of "lunch counters" also illustrated the evolution of this city's eating habits. For every kosher "dairy lunch" joint that went down, it seems as though a Jamba Juice or Pink Berry has taken its place.
Man, it's hard not get sucked into reading about all these old places...looking forward to getting my copy of the book in a week or two.
Update: Glaser's co-author Jerome Snyder was also a designer...and no slouch either.
For the NY Times, Nick Bilton writes about uBeam, Meredith Perry's startup that is working on wireless electricity. Sounds like the company is on track to deliver a product in a couple of years.
Ms. Perry's company, uBeam, announced on Wednesday that it took an early prototype concept of this technology, first developed for Ms. Perry's college innovation competition, and turned it into a fully functional prototype that the company now plans to build for consumers.
"This is the only wireless power system that allows you to be on your phone and moving around a room freely while your device is charging," Ms. Perry said in an interview. "It allows for a Wi-Fi-like experience of charging; with everything else you have to be in close range of a transmitter."
That is some future shit right there. (via @tcarmody)
Photographer David Slater wants Wikipedia to remove his photograph of a monkey taking a photo of itself but Wikipedia has refused, saying that as the monkey was the photographer, Slater has no right to the copyright to the photo.
The Gloucestershire-based photographer now claims that the decision is jeopardising his income as anyone can take the image and publish it for free, without having to pay him a royalty. He complained to Wikimedia that he owned the copyright of the image, but a recent transparency report from the group, which details all the removal requests it has received, reveals that editors decided that the monkey itself actually owned the copyright because it was the one that pressed the shutter button.
But shouldn't Wikipedia take it down anyway because they don't have the monkey's permission to release the photo into the public domain? (I mean, probably not...monkeys don't have any rights under the law, yes?) (via @capndesign)
Update: A previous version of this post stated that Wikipedia said that the monkey held the copyright. They said no such thing...that was my poor paraphrase. In the US at least, monkeys obviously can't hold copyrights. From the Compendium II of Copyright Office Practices, section 202.02(b) states:
The term "authorship" implies that, for a work to be copyrightable, it must owe its origin to a human being. Materials produced solely by nature, by plants, or by animals are not copyrightable.
Interesting phrase, "owe its origin to"...perhaps Slater has a point. (via @stvnrlly)
These sculptures by Gerry Judah for the Goodwood Festival of Speed are amazing. Here's how they made the Mercedes arch for this year's festival. (via ministry of type)
Peter Sims writes about an under-appreciated aspect of Steve Jobs' success: he "was a superb collaborator with the people who he respected and trusted".
[Ed] Catmull, now president of both Pixar as well as Walt Disney Animation (a position Catmull has held since Disney acquired Pixar for $7.4 billion in 2006), was Jobs' longest-running colleague, a working relationship that spanned 26 years. Catmull dedicates a chapter of his superb recent book Creativity, Inc. to what it was like to work with Jobs. Catmull, who has the least overt ego of any senior executive I've ever met, saw Jobs mature enormously over time, especially in the development of personal empathy and humility.
In fact, Catmull, sees Jobs' life as having taken a classic Hero's Journey arc.
From his widely-reported immature and often arrogant youth, Jobs by all accounts appeared to develop into a far more empathetic human being and wise leader. But that personal transformation would not have happened without what leadership scholar Warren Bennis described as "crucibles" -- those personal crises and setback experiences that shape us much like "medieval alchemists used in their attempts to turn base metals into gold" -- and, that allow for personal and leadership metamorphosis.
The "far more" qualifier in front of "empathetic" is necessary when speaking of Jobs' transformation. I think what he developed could probably be referred to as a ruthless empathy, employed much like another other tool in the service of building great companies and making great products.
Legendary designer Paul Rand's Thoughts on Design is back in print for the first time since the 1970s. The new version, which will be out on Aug 19, is available for preorder and comes with a foreword by Michael Bierut.
One of the seminal texts of graphic design, Paul Rand's Thoughts on Design is now available for the first time since the 1970s. Writing at the height of his career, Rand articulated in his slender volume the pioneering vision that all design should seamlessly integrate form and function. This facsimile edition preserves Rand's original 1947 essay with the adjustments he made to its text and imagery for a revised printing in 1970, and adds only an informative and inspiring new foreword by design luminary Michael Bierut. As relevant today as it was when first published, this classic treatise is an indispensable addition to the library of every designer.
Sight and Sound polled 340 critics and filmmakers in search of the world's best documentary films. Here are their top 50. From the list, the top five:
A Man with a Movie Camera
Night and Fog
The Thin Blue Line
Unless you went to film school or are a big film nerd, you probably haven't seen (or even heard of) the top choice, A Man with a Movie Camera. Roger Ebert reviewed the film several years ago as part of his Great Movies Collection.
Born in 1896 and coming of age during the Russian Revolution, Vertov considered himself a radical artist in a decade where modernism and surrealism were gaining stature in all the arts. He began by editing official newsreels, which he assembled into montages that must have appeared rather surprising to some audiences, and then started making his own films. He would invent an entirely new style. Perhaps he did. "It stands as a stinging indictment of almost every film made between its release in 1929 and the appearance of Godard's 'Breathless' 30 years later," the critic Neil Young wrote, "and Vertov's dazzling picture seems, today, arguably the fresher of the two." Godard is said to have introduced the "jump cut," but Vertov's film is entirely jump cuts.
If you're curious, the film is available on YouTube in its entirety:
(via open culture)
Christopher Nolan + Matthew McConaughey + space + doomed Earth. Oh man, this is looking like it might actually be great. Or completely suck.
Please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't s (via @aaroncoleman0)
Halt and Catch Fire just ended its first season last night and while the show wasn't perfect, I loved almost every single minute of it. (In Time, James Poniewozik writes about why the series was so interesting.) Even haters of the show can agree that one of the best aspects of the 80s period drama is the music. There are several playlists of the music on Rdio...this seems to be the best one:
Each main character from the show also has their own playlist. Joe MacMillan: Brian Eno, Eurythmics, and The Cars. Cameron Howe: Blondie, The Clash, and The Slits. Gordon Clark: Creedence, Eric Clapton, and Dire Straits. Donna Clark: Mozart, Joni Mitchell, and Billy Joel.
From artist Cory Arcangel, Working On My Novel is a book comprised of tweets from people who posted they were working on their novels.
What does it feel like to try and create something new? How is it possible to find a space for the demands of writing a novel in a world of instant communication? Working on My Novel is about the act of creation and the gap between the different ways we express ourselves today. Exploring the extremes of making art, from satisfaction and even euphoria to those days or nights when nothing will come, it's the story of what it means to be a creative person, and why we keep on trying.
Arcangel also ran a blog that reposted "I'm sorry I haven't posted" posts from other blogs.
The Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire lets you explore ancient Rome in a Google Maps interface. (via @pbump)
Update: From Vox, 40 Maps That Explain the Roman Empire.
Two thousand years ago, on August 19, 14 AD, Caesar Augustus died. He was Rome's first emperor, having won a civil war more than 40 years earlier that transformed the dysfunctional Roman Republic into an empire. Under Augustus and his successors, the empire experienced 200 years of relative peace and prosperity. Here are 40 maps that explain the Roman Empire -- its rise and fall, its culture and economy, and how it laid the foundations of the modern world.
Early last month, Electric Objects launched their campaign offering their "Computer Made for Art", the EO1. If you remember, they were featured right here on kottke.org on their launch day. A lot has happened since then.
Their campaign has gathered almost 2000 backers and raised over $680,000, blowing their $25K goal out of the water. They announced their artist-in-residence program and had over 300 artists apply for a chance to work with EO to create art for the platform. Electric Objects is also also teaming up with New York Public Library Labs to offer a special artist-in-residence position. The selected artist will get to play with the library's extensive maps collection in order to create digital art for the EO1. The artist gets a EO1 prototype kit, a stipend, time with the EO and NYPL teams, and their work will be shown at the 42nd Street branch of the library. More details and application information here.
And! You still have a couple days to back Electric Objects on Kickstarter and get yourself (or an art-loving friend) an EO1 to hang on your wall.
Physicist Andy Howell recently gave a talk about the science of Star Wars and wrote up a summary of it for Ain't It Cool News. Topics covered include binary star systems, droids, the Death Star, and lightsabers:
Of course, we still don't know how to make a lightsaber. One big problem is confining plasma (if that is even what it is), into some tube. But a bigger problem is the amount of energy required. We can actually calculate this from clues in the movies!
In Episode I, Qui-Gon jabs his lightsaber into a door, and melts part of it. That's just basic physics! To melt something, you have to raise its temperature to the melting point, and you can calculate how much energy that takes using the specific heat capacity of a material.
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